How to Play Low Pocket Pairs

Tips for Playing Low Pocket Pairs    

Pocket pairs including 2-2 to 7-7 might seem like good starting hands in short-handed play, however by the time you get into post-flop action the cards become very difficult to play.  Regardless of the flop texture unless you hit your set you’re basically folding these hands, especially when there’s one or more overcards on the board (or drawing boards with negative implied odds).    


In Limit Holdem low pocket pairs can be played in virtually any position without a 3bet.   However in No Limit Holdem there are a number of things that should limit how you play them.  Firstly you need to be aware that you’ll only hit a set on the flop 12.5% of the time (1/8) , which means you’ll need at least 7:1 pot-odds to call opening raises.  

Asides from pot-odds however, your table position is another important condition for how you play these hands.   

Pre-Flop Early Position (UTG to Third To Act)    

Pocket pairs are really difficult to play in early position because whether you’re limping or raising, you still don’t know what others left to act are going to do.  A limp from early position can be punished with a 4xBB raise from someone, and even if you decide to open-raise UTG you can easily get fired at down the line and forced to fold. 

The size of your chip stack and everyone else’s should also help you with your decision. When you’ve become short-stacked you should happily shove with these hands in early position – especially when there’s deep stack players at the table (100+BBs stack).  This is because you get paid better when you make your set and you’ll usually be ahead of big stacks who call you,   Also remember that it’s implied odds that make set-mining profitable, so with lots of loose big stack players on your table you should be more inclined to limp or call raises pre-flop.   

If you run into any 3bet action you must fold low pockets here. 

For the record, when you play in multi-table tournaments. a tight-agressive player (TAG) will often just limp on the blinds/UTG with low pocket pairs.  However a LAG in the same position in the middle stages of the tournament will almost always raise.   

Pre-Flop Middle Position (Fourth & Fifth Positions)    

In middle position you have a few more options with your low pocket pairs, you can limp, call raises or you can open-raise more profitably – as you’ll be in a better position post-flop.  You’ll have less players re-raising behind you and now and again you can stel here especially in short-handed games. With 2 or more limpers in the pot I always recommend raising here – and this has two great benefits. Firstly, because you’ll be set-mining it’s best to build as big a pot as possible; secondly, by raising here you’ll also camoflauge your hand for post-flop action and you’ll get called off much better if you actually do make your set (because players won’t be able to narrow your hand-range sufficiently).    

In 5th position at a 9-man table you’re also in the so-called “highjack” position.  You have enough information and leverage to make a move with  your low pocket pairs, which makes stealing pots more profitable.    

Pre-Flop Late Position     

This the best place to get dealt low pocket pairs. Here you have the full arsenal of skills and moves in No Limit Holdem to take advantage of including blind-stealing, 3betting and even limping.  All of these decisions are profitable and whichever option you take is up to you – you can rest assure however that even if you raise and get called you’ll have the best position post-flop.  You can also deliver a mean continuation bet on any dry board to take home the pot. 

One Response to “How to Play Low Pocket Pairs”

  1. Karlos says:

    “…which means you’ll need at least 7:1 pot-odds to call opening raises” – As if 7:1 odds exist pre-flop! Even if you did get 7:1 you’d probably be behind higher pair.

    20:1 implied odds is what I look for. You will make your trips 1/8 times but need your opponent to make a strong enough hand to pay off. If they miss you won’t get paid hence the 20:1 implied odds required.

    Ideally you will be against an opponent with an overpair or top pair top kicker and take their whole stack. As a rule of thumb give up if you miss, Easy strategy = easy decisions = +EV 🙂 Imagine how hard it would be to fold AK on an A92 board, would be tempted to put the guy on a weaker ace, i’d. AQ AJ, however against stronger players be wary!!